21 Jul 2010

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Diverse musical works contest for top prize

“It is a little like comparing apples with soufflé with pizza! These three works once more highlight the depth and diversity of musical composition in New Zealand.”

Julie Sperring, Executive Director of SOUNZ, the Centre for New Zealand Music, explains the huge differences in musical language illustrated by the three works chosen as finalists for the 2010 SOUNZ Contemporary Award. They are: Inner Bellow for solo clarinet and electronic sounds by Chris Cree Brown; Rudiments for orchestra by Chris Gendall; and Violin Concerto No. 1 by Ross Harris.

These three works have been announced as the finalists this year from 44 works submitted for the prestigious annual composition award. “The SOUNZ Contemporary Award,” Ms. Sperring continues, “is awarded annually as part of the APRA Silver Scroll event to a work by a New Zealand composer which has been premiered in the last year. Funded by APRA and facilitated by SOUNZ the award consists of a $3000 prize and a distinctive trophy designed and made by Auckland sculptor Sarah Smuts Kennedy. SOUNZ convenes a jury of four professional musicians who choose the three finalist works on creative and artistic criteria including compositional excellence and inspiration.”

Inner Bellow by Chris Cree Brown was written for and premiered by Christchurch-based clarinetist Gretchen Dunsmore. The work includes an electroacoustic track and uses unusual performance techniques including having the soloist play through a partly dismantled instrument. “This was a very canny way of ensuring reliable microtones,” the jury commented. “Inner Bellow was fantastically innovative revealing new tonal possibilities from the clarinet. It was a great audience piece with highly defined textures and vigorous, good-humoured interplay between soloist and the electronic part.”

Rudiments by Chris Gendall was written for and premiered by the New Julliard Ensemble in New York, USA with funding support from Creative New Zealand. “This was a precocious and strikingly detailed work for large ensemble ‘chockablock’ with vivid sonorities,” said the jury. “The use of dynamics was particularly interesting with a wonderful contrast between vertical happenings and a horizontal flux of tonal colours.”

Violin Concerto No. 1 by Ross Harris was commissioned by Christchurch-based arts supporter Christopher Marshall for English violinist Anthony Marwood. Marwood premiered the work with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in their 2010 Made in New Zealand concert conducted by Tecwyn Evans. “This was a major musical utterance, highly expressive and with finely crafted structure,” the jury noted. “There was some fantastic virtuosic writing and moments of intense beauty.”

The winner of the SOUNZ Contemporary Award will be announced at an special APRA-hosted event in Auckland on September 8, 2010 along with the winners of the APRA Silver Scroll and Maioha Awards and a new induction into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame.

Ms. Sperring says: “The jury were hugely impressed by the standard of entries this year and only wished that they could have selected six or seven finalists. They were particularly impressed with the strength of ensemble writing evident in many of the works showing that musical creativity is in a very healthy state in New Zealand.”

SOUNZ, the Centre for New Zealand is a music information centre dedicated to promoting and providing the music of New Zealand composers.

More information about SOUNZ, the Award, the works and composers is available through the SOUNZ website.